JwJ Joins Blitz to Build Respect for Workers at Walmart
Starting on September 26th and continuing throughout the week, JwJ coalitions teamed up with United Food and Commercial Workers locals, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) and students to blitz Walmart stores across the nation. Volunteers talked with Walmart associates about their working conditions and passed out leaflets encouraging them to join OUR Walmart.
OUR Walmart is an organization founded and run by Walmart hourly associates who are dedicated to improving both working conditions and the company as a whole. Walmart is one of the most powerful companies in the world, taking in $408.2 billion in revenue last year, but it pays its sales associates meager wages, an average of $8.81 an hour. These shockingly low wages force many workers to rely on publicly subsidized health care and worry about being able to pay for essentials like housing and food.
In all other countries Walmart employees are unionized, but here in the United States workers are often afraid to speak out and hold Walmart to its own promises and policies. OUR Walmart seeks to help these workers gain the respect they deserve and in doing so, improve Walmart stores so that customers, workers, and the company all benefit.
JwJ coalitions in Atlanta, DC, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Central Illinois, Western Massachusetts, Colorado, and many other states visited more than 30 stores and talked with over 500 Walmart associates in order to spread the word about OUR Walmart.
While many associates were enthusiastic about OUR Walmart and shared their grievances with volunteers, others were afraid to speak out. Some workers had clearly been fed misinformation about OUR Walmart before the volunteers arrived. Workers at one store in New Jersey were told that leafleters would ask for their credit card information, when in reality the purpose of the blitz was to have conversations and inform associates about OUR Walmart.
The vast majority of Walmart associates expressed interest in OUR Walmart. Associates across the country complained about scheduling issues, low pay, and expensive health insurance. In one store, a manager went through the store taking the OUR Walmart leaflets away from associates. One associate at that store who was especially eager to get involved with OUR Walmart said, “I don’t understand why the management is against this. They should want people to stay, and that’s why people quit all the time, lack of respect.”
Responses from managers at Walmart stores varied widely, as a few did nothing and even encouraged volunteers to give out information, while others went so far as to call the police. At one store in Maryland, the management was prepared for the volunteers. One JwJ leader reported, “as soon as we entered the store, it was clear that they were waiting for us. They immediately called associates to a store meeting, so there were very few associates on the floor…One manager did get a police officer, but the officer refused to kick anyone out because the manager could not give a reason why anyone should be kicked out.” Despite the obstacles, the volunteers still managed to speak with all the associates on the floor and were even able to address the associates gathered at the store meeting.
Visit www.forrespect.org to grow the movement and make your voice heard at Walmart!